HATTIESBURG — Mississippi may not have its own major league professional sports team, but one Hattiesburg resident can at least say he had a major part in developing one.
Rodney Richardson, founder and principal of RARE Design in downtown Hattiesburg, recently designed a new logo for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, who will soon become the New Orleans Pelicans.
Richardson, who started RARE in January 1999, is certainly no stranger to working with major corporations — over the years, he’s handled brand development and advertising for industry giants like Nike, Adidas and Home Depot, as well as other NBA teams.
So when Hornets owner Tom Benson decided last summer to give the team a new identity, some of Richardson’s acquaintances in the NBA recommended him for the job.
“When they (the Hornets organization) were starting on this, they were talking about some of the unique challenges of the project — everything from timeline to regional sensitivity,” said Richardson. “Some friends of ours that work within the league told them, ‘Well, this is who you need to talk to,’ and that launched us into the project.”
The logo — which was unveiled Jan. 24 — sports a red background featuring a pelican with a basketball under its beak and a fleur-de-lis at the top. The new color scheme is blue, red and gold, in stark contrast to the Hornets’ purple, gold, white and teal.
Richardson said a project of this caliber usually plays out at a slow pace, but the process of creating the Pelicans logo moved a little more quickly than he expected.
“A total brand overhaul in the NBA is usually about a two-year process,” said Richardson. “But Mr. Benson said, ‘We don’t want to wait that long — we’re going to do whatever we can to pull this together within a year.'”
“So the project as a whole was put on that expedited timeline, and we did it in about a month or two.”
The NBA still has to approve the team’s change, which is expected to take effect at the beginning of next season.
Grace Kent, account director at RARE, said the designers wanted the logo to personify the spirit of the new franchise, and the pelican image was a natural choice for the team.
“The most important thing we do here is design so that it’s right,” she said. “And for something to be right, it has to be (more than) just thought-provoking — it has to have a real live story behind it, and the pelican embodies the entire state of Louisiana.”
Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints, bought the Hornets organization last spring. The team, which was previously located in Charlotte, N.C., has played its games in the New Orleans Arena since the 2002 season.
Benson said he wanted a change for the Hornets because fans didn’t identify with the team’s image.
“The name Hornets didn’t mean anything to this community,” Benson told the Associated Press when he unveiled the logo. “It was a priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve.”
“The pelican represents New Orleans, just like the Saints. They have incredible resolve.”
Kent said Benson came up with the idea of using a pelican for the team’s mascot. He was steadfast in the idea of using the bird in the logo, so the designers took the concept and ran with it.
“The pelican is a strong, strong creature,” said Kent. “And like the city of New Orleans in general, pelicans soar at great heights to achieve what they have, and we found a great story within that.”
“So when it all came together, we worked through those values to come up with the actual identity and it just evolved itself.”